Not long ago, I was talking with a group of executives about CRM adoption. It’s a problem as old as CRM itself: Leaders invest thousands or even millions of dollars in a CRM system anticipating they’ll now be able to make better, data-driven decisions and improve forecasting—yet their field reps sidestep the system because they view it as added workload with little benefit. In the course of conversation, one of the executives mentioned that his organization had solved the adoption problem simply by cutting the 100+ reports in their system down to 10. In other words, in reducing their information load by 90%, they exponentially increased usage of the system.

Bingo! This is what we have long been urging companies to understand. Leaders and sales enablement professionals seek to drive greater adoption by flooding the field with data, but the opposite approach is needed. When it comes to driving CRM adoption, less is more. This can be tough for leaders to grasp as it seems so counterintuitive. “You mean to say that people will use CRM more if I give them less data and reporting?” Yes. That’s exactly what we are saying.

Reducing the number of reports works because it forces companies to determine what’s truly important. Which data is most critical for sales managers and their reps to have in order to be successful? By zeroing in on these numbers and eliminating all the other extraneous information, it gives focus to field, makes CRM indispensable, and drives usage of the system.

Think about it like this: Imagine you’ve been set adrift at sea and told to navigate your way home using the thousands of visible stars that blanket the sky. Could you do it? Of course not. You’re not born with the ability to look at thousands of data points and intuitively understand which ones are important as navigational beacons. But what if you were given a simple map highlighting the 10 stars in the sky that would lead you to land? Now could you get there? Sure! You could focus on the important data points and take confident action.

This is why less is more when it comes to CRM. By giving your salespeople the few critical data points they need to navigate to increased productivity, they will come to rely on CRM as an essential element of their jobs rather than a burden of information they’d prefer to toss out of the boat. They will follow the highlighted path rather than staring blankly at the sky.

We saw this firsthand in one of our recent sales management training sessions. As part of a case study exercise, we handed out a simple mock report and asked managers to use it to identify which reps were performing well on a handful of measures. Scanning the page, one attendee from a major global company remarked, “I wish we had reports that were this good.” The comment was significant. This manager’s company produces literally hundreds of reports with thousands of data points every month, yet it was our single page of 25 data points that he found most compelling. Why? Because those 25 carefully selected data points were all that he needed to answer the questions in front of him. Additional information would have clouded his vision.

So how does a company escape data overload and make CRM indispensable by providing only what’s needed? It’s not by asking people which reports they can’t live without, it’s by asking which data they need to make critical decisions. Let me say that again: the “less is more” approach to driving CRM adoption is not an issue of paring down reports; it’s an issue of identifying the key data each role needs and providing that data in highly-targeted reports. Field reps, managers, and others will then seek out those reports, driving them to rely on CRM as a critical tool for their daily tasks.

This is exactly what the executive who cut his reports by 90% experienced. When his company pared down its data to only what was needed, CRM suddenly became indispensable. Field reps went from rejecting it to embracing it, which meant leaders could use the system to make better decisions.

If you’re struggling with CRM adoption, take a look at the amount of information you provide to the field. Chances are, your salespeople and managers are being inundated with unnecessary data when all they need are a few key points of light to help them steer to success.

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